By Clare Ogilvie
Bruce and Lori Wilson knew having a baby would change their lives.
What they weren’t really prepared for was the way it would change their relationship.
“When (Connor) was first born both of us wanted to be the good parents and wanted to be there for everything,” said Bruce, the controller at the Listel Whistler Hotel.
“So we both got up at the same time, every time and it was so draining. We suffered from sleep deprivation and we were starting to bicker.
“Lori and I started arguing and fighting a lot more and it wasn’t a happy place to come home anymore.”
For Lori the sleep deprivation was almost unbearable and it was aggravated by a difficult birth, which injured her hips and added physiotherapy to her to-do list.
“I didn’t think it would as bad as it was,” said the Pemberton mom, on maternity leave from her job as an esthetician.
“There really was no break in the beginning and after a while you can’t even think and you are not eating.”
Both wanted to re-connect and learn how to find their loving relationship again.
It was while the couple was attending a Sustainability Speaker series lecture in Whistler last month that they learned of a new course being offered through Sea to Sky Community Services’ Putting Children First program.
“The course sounded like a really good idea,” said Bruce.
Titled Bringing Baby Home the course will be offered in Whistler, Pemberton and Squamish in March and April. A Gottman Institute certified course, it will focus on staying connected with your partner, strengthening your friendship, intimacy and conflict regulation skills, interacting with your baby in a positive way, keeping both parents involved, and dealing with conflict successfully.
“I think it will benefit every couple,” said couple and family therapist Nancy Routley, the certified Gottman trainer who will lead the course.
“What we do know is that when we bring babies home it changes everything. It is incredibly stressful. So this course is all about teaching how to make a really solid foundation, a solid friendship.”
Research shows, said Routley, that within three years after the birth of a child approximately two-thirds of couples will experience a significant drop in relationship quality, which may dramatically increase both conflict and hostility.
New moms can also experience the baby blues or post-partum depression during this transition.
It is a tenet of the Gottman course that the real foundation for a child’s development is the quality of the couples’ relationship and emotional life.
“The strength of the relationship is everything,” said Routley.
“If we have a really strong foundation the rest of it falls into place. It doesn’t mean it is perfect but it is such an important piece and the time spent is so worth it.
“It is such an inoculation to what is going to happen in the next transition period because it is tough.”
The free courses will run on two consecutive Saturdays and will only be offered this time to pregnant couples or couples with infants. In Whistler the course will be on March 10 and March 17, in Pemberton the dates are March 24 and March 31 and in Squamish they will be on April 14 and April 21.
Routley said courses would be offered in the future that are appropriate for couples with older children.
The Seattle based Gottman Institute, co-founded by Drs. John and Julie Schwartz Gottman, has two major functions. The Institute helps couples directly, and it provides state-of-the-art training to mental health professionals and other health care providers. The Gottman Institute applies leading-edge research on marriage in a practical, down-to-earth therapy and trains therapists committed to helping couples.
For more information on the courses and to sign up go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-938-4484.